"The reason why people have a hard time with us is because a lot of the stuff is actually true," Topix CEO Chris Tolles told Schneider. "We are the WikiLeaks for small-town America in a lot of cases." Stioll, Tolles said, he and his staff are working on ways to "push things in a more civil direction." Schneider called him after Topix posts were blamed for a multiple murder-suicide that wiped out a fanily in Austin, Ind., last month.
Schneider also found that Topix can be particularly troublesome for small towns because it's easier to discover the subjects of postings despite the anonymity, according to Zeynep Tufekci, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Maryland in Baltimore County who specializes in social media research.
Tolles reports Kentucky is the website's most active state with over 1 million daily page views, but even there "the site is reviled by some community leaders as a mostly corrosive influence," Schneider reports. Glasgow Mayor Rhonda Trautman told her that recent postings about her city included "a local bankruptcy, an alleged sex offender with address provided, someone inquiring about where to buy pornography, and the mention of families whom the writer alleged are inbred."
However, the anonymity that bothers local leaders may also be the most important part of the website. Schneider writes: “Al Cross, director of the University of Kentucky's Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, agreed that such sites serve an 'accountability function.' Many newspapers in rural communities lack the resources and the backbone to tackle controversy, he said, but 'these Topix sites provide unfiltered, anonymous criticism (which) can be healthy.'” (Read more)